The Death of ‘the Hangman’: What will happen in Iran now?

Photo Credit: Hussein Zurvand, Wikipedia

Today (Tuesday) the late Iranian president, Ibrahim Raisi, and Iranian foreign minister, Amir Abd-Elihan, were laid to rest at a funeral in Tehran in the presence of hundreds of thousands of supporters. The two were killed in a helicopter crash in the northernmost province of the country, near the border with Azerbaijan, which they visited on Sunday morning.

The harsh weather conditions in the region delayed the understanding of the president’s fate by a day; together with them, two county governors and five other staff and security personnel were killed. At the moment, the accident appears to have originated in human error and difficult forensic conditions, and not in deliberate action.

There are not many mourners for Raisi’s death, neither in Iran nor outside it. The president, who became known as the Tehran Hangman (due to his participation in the legal forum that executed thousands of dissidents in the 80s), was known for his conservative, hawkish and aggressive approach – and for being Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ‘yes-man’.

The 85-year-old Khamenei is responsible for the major destruction created in every country in which Iran intervened, from Iraq to Yemen, especially in Syria and Lebanon, and accordingly, Iran’s approach to the Middle East is not expected to change in the short term.

According to the main predictions, Raisi was to remain as president until 2029 (8 years in office), or until Khamenei’s death – and then replace him as supreme leader, while Abd-Eliahan became president. The deaths of the two created a vacuum and space on the list of “heirs to the throne,” which would undoubtedly create political instability in Iran.

Who will fill the space? Currently, Vice President Muhammad Makhbar serves as acting president for a month – until the June 28 elections. It is likely that Ali Larijani, the leader of the moderate political camp, will run in the elections if he is not disqualified from running by Khamenei as in 2021; in addition, it is likely to see the candidacy of Muhammad Kalibaf, the chairman of the parliament and leader of the conservative camp.

A prominent name that has came up against Raisi on the question of the succession of the Supreme Leader, and now comes up on the question of the new President, is Mujthaba Khamenei – the son of the current Supreme Leader, who is considered very extreme in his views.

Mujtba will probably take an even more aggressive approach toward Israel and the United States, while strengthening the Revolutionary Guards and promoting the Quds Force, and perhaps also striving toward nuclear weapons.

From Israel’s point of view, Mujitaba is very bad news, but in the long run it may be possible to be optimistic. In Iran, significant internal ruptures are evident, with a significant portion of the population fed up with the revolutionary rule that has prevailed since 1979, which is evident in massive demonstrations and protests, as expressed in the “veiling protest” two years ago.

The rise of an extremist element such as Mujathaba to power will probably lead to a significant reaction and an even more severe rift, which could herald the end of the Islamic Revolution, or at least force Iran to focus more on domestic affairs, and less on foreign affairs.

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